It has been a little over two years since the last fly-in at Harris Ranch and there have been all sorts of adventures, taking us all the way across the country and back. Michael Rodgers started up the West Coast Mooney Club and there was a lunch fly-in planned at Harris Ranch for Saturday. It seems like forever since I’ve really flown somewhere, so with the plane finally back together (that’s for another post) we were looking forward to the trip.
The forecast looked great with cool skies and relatively light winds. As we pulled through the gate at the airport I saw Henry with his hangar open and asked if he was heading to Harris Ranch. He said he was and I told him we would see him there. After cleaning the plane (it was filthy from the couple days it spent outside while my mechanic was completing the work) I went through pre-flight and pulled the plane out of the hangar. As we taixed to the run up area I could see Henry had pulled his Mooney out and was getting ready to depart as well.
After the run-up was complete (everything checked out well) I requested flight following from Ground and received departure instructions and my squawk code. There were a few other planes arriving and departing but in the time it took to taxi to the departure end of 24 the runway was clear and I was given clearance to take off as soon as I called up the tower. Climbing out, we had just begun our turn to heading 120 when the tower turned us over to SoCal Approach. We were initially restricted below the Bravo airspace, then handed off to the next controller who cleared us through the Bravo allowing us to continue our climb to 8,500′ a couple minutes later, once we were past the main stream of commercial planes approaching LAX from the east.
Sometimes on the radios there are some interesting conversations. SoCal is a very busy airspace, and the controllers are some of the best and most helpful around. They are happy to help out with VFR flight following so they know who you are instead of you being a “type unknown.” Today there was a Cessna that was flying around and kept coming on frequency asking to make a turn here or there. (I should have made a note of the time and frequency so that I could go back to Live ATC and try to pull the recording.) After the pilot said they were going to do a left 360 and a right 360 the controller asked “Are you having some sort of problem? What exactly are you doing?” At that point a different voice came on the radio (must have been the CFI) and said “No, we are on a training flight.” ATC came back and just told him that he didn’t need to say everything they were doing, just to let him know when they were done with maneuvers and heading back.
It was a little bumpy over the mountains north of Van Nuys but once over the Central Valley everything smoothed out. The winds were stronger then forecast and we were only seeing about 145mph across the ground but a little over an hour after taking off we began our descent. The winds at Harris Ranch were interesting and I initially thought we were going to be coming in a little high, but then I ended up adding more power at about a one mile final. We were lined up great, but just before touching down the bottom fell out on us and as we bounced once and then settled down I told my wife “That was terrible…” We rolled out to the end of the runway and turned off to park. We got out and met the others that were already there and I commented on my terrible landing, that the bottom fell out of it. A couple others said they experienced the same thing happen on approach and landing.
We ended up with nine Mooneys there, lunch was great, and the conversation was wonderful. It is always nice to meet more Mooney pilots and get to know them.
The flight back at 9,500′ enjoyed the benefit of a nice tailwind and our ground speed averaged between 195-200 mph the whole way with smooth air. In about one hour and fifteen minutes after wheels up we were touching down in Fullerton and taxiing back to our hangar, over two hours faster than if we were driving out (without traffic).
I love flying a Mooney and meeting all the other West Coast Mooniacs is just icing on the cake!